Through the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, I was assigned the successful and extremely talented novelist Marcy Dermansky to be my writing coach. I was leery when I found out that Marcy was Jewish. All the Jews I knew had the Berlin Wall mentality. I knew my novel was pro-peace, but I wasn’t sure she’d see it that way. My novel was about a Palestinian and an Israel who are able to rise above race and religion, find a common ground and achieve what others only have dreamed. My message was clear, we need to work together to advance humanity. I knew that in my story, the Israelis gave Ichmad a scholarship, put aside their differences and embraced him, but I didn’t sugar-coat Ichmad’s suffering. Reality is reality after all.
Marcy was editing my novel during the time of either the war or the siege on Gaza (the novel writing did last years after all and between the classes and the editors, it all seems to have blurred together). She suggested I incorporate Gaza into my novel. I was skeptical. Unlike the rest of the material, I’d never been to Gaza. I immersed myself in relentless research about Gaza which probably wasn’t the best thing for me. I was horrified at my findings, but Marcy helped me give shape to my ideas. When I finally finished the final draft of my novel, a couple years later, I sent it to Marcy to read and she had the following to say:
Prepare yourself: The Almond Tree may very well move you to tears. Michelle Corsanti’s profound and finely crafted debut novel tells the story of one man, Ichmad Hamid, from his humble beginnings as a scared and helpless child in an occupied village through to his inspirational rise to power and influence. His intimate tale of love and loss and awareness shines a greater understanding of the personal toll of the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict.
— Marcy Dermansky, author of Bad Marie
After Marcy, the talented Pamela Lane, another Jewish editor, helped take my novel to the next level and along the way, she told me that I changed the way she viewed the conflict. She could now see both sides. She even wrote letters of protest against the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla.